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Green peaks and pure shores

For those looking for a luxury beach retreat, St Lucia holidays tick all the right boxes and it's a great destination for families too, with a wide choice of all inclusive hotels. A picture-book Caribbean island, St Lucia has honey coloured beaches, coral reefs, wild orchids, sulphur springs, and magnificent waterfalls, scattered with banana plantations and the occasional clapboard rum shop. Perhaps most impressive are its jungle-clad volcanic peaks, the Pitons, which rise dramatically from the sea. Holidays to St Lucia will have you in seventh heaven.

Highlights of St Lucia

Volcanic Wonders

Marvel at Soufriere's famous 'drive-in' volcano, a rocky lunar landscape of bubbling mud and sulphur, and the Diamond Waterfall in the Botanical Gardens where effervescent sulphur-rich water changes colour—from yellow to black to green to grey, several times a day.  

Rainforest Adventures

Join an organised hike, bike ride or jeep safari through St Lucia's leafy rainforest or, if you're feeling brave, zip-line through the forest canopy up to 15 metres above the ground. At Rainforest Adventures near Castries there's even an aerial tram through the treetops. 

Pure Shores

St Lucia has a beach for everyone. Keen snorkelers and divers head to Jalousie or Anse Chastanet to discover the spectacular ocean life. Nature lovers choose Grande Anse, a mile long stretch of beach where turtles lay their eggs. For fun in the sun, popular Reduit Beach has bars and water sports. And for palm-fringed paradise, Marigot Bay's deserted sands are everyone's Caribbean beach fantasy. 

Castries

Built around a picturesque natural harbour and backed by green hills, busy Castries is the island's cultural hub. Visit the vibrant local market and stroll through Derek Walcott Square, where you will find a 19th-century cathedral in the shade of a 400-year-old samaan tree. For a breathtaking panorama of the city and surrounding area, go to Fort Charlotte, the hilltop stronghold used during France and Britain's many battles for St Lucia. 

Pigeon Island

Like a living museum of legendary pirate history, this national park is the perfect spot for a scenic stroll. Climb the hill to Fort Rodney for dazzling views of nearby Martinique and visit the museum to learn the history of the island. It was from here that Admiral Rodney set sail in 1782 and destroyed the French fleet in the famous Battle of the Saintes.

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Flight Information

There two main carriers offering flights to St. Lucia from the UK giving you the option to fly seven days a week.

Direct Carriers: Direct carriers from the UK are British Airways and Virgin from London Gatwick.

Indirect Carriers: British Airways offer flights from most other regional airports such as Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh with a connection via London Gatwick.

Health

Typhoid, Polio and Hepatitis A are recommended

What to pack

Get out your favourite summer clothes; St Lucia holidays are hot all year round. But it's a good idea to pack an umbrella and some waterproofs from June to November. UK style three pin plugs are standard here, so you shouldn't need an electrical adapter.

Swimwear;

Cool, lightweight clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen;

A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face;

Passport;

Long sleeved cover-ups for evening;

Waterproof jacket;

High factor sunscreen;

Sunglasses;

Comfortable walking sandals for exploring;

Mosquito repellent;

An underwater camera for snorkelling,

Currency

The official currency is the East Caribbean Dollar. You can buy them before you leave the UK. In St Lucia, you can exchange your UK Pounds at banks, hotels and some stores. For the best rates, go to a bank or one of the exchange bureaus in Castries, the island's capital.

How to get your currency

Many places accept both East Caribbean Dollars and US Dollars and will quote prices in either. Make sure you know which currency you are being quoted. Most major UK credit cards are widely accepted, as are traveller's cheques. You will find cash machines in Castries and at the airport.

Tipping

It is customary to tip 10 percent in restaurants; a service charge for this amount is already added to most bills. Similarly, most passengers tip taxi drivers 10 percent of the total fare. Tipping may be included in some all-inclusive hotels; otherwise it is also polite to thank porters, room service, and maids with a few dollars or so.

St Lucia Specialities

St Lucia's Creole cuisine is a cooking pot of locally caught seafood and French and West Indian influences. Everything tastes deliciously fresh, with local ingredients like mangoes, papayas, coconuts, and bananas; the island's primary crop for export. St Lucian fishermen's catches are served with fried plantain or breadfruit rather than potato chips, and hearty comfort food includes spicy curries and pepperpot stews. Watch the sun set with real Caribbean rum, mixed into a punch or served in a cocktail.

Green Figs and Saltfish
The national dish doesn’t actually contain figs at all, but unripe bananas and flaked salted fish, usually cod. Not yet ripe, the starchy bananas taste more like potatoes than the yellow bananas we’re used to. The two main ingredients are sautéed with onions, garlic, celery and peppers.

Seafood
You can try a different fish at every meal on St Lucia holidays. The catch of the day might be mahi-mahi, red snapper, tuna, marlin or langouste (lobster), all of which taste delicious barbecued with Creole spices or hot pepper sauce. Popular seafood delicacies include lambi, (conch) fritters and accra (spicy salted cod fishcakes).

Callaloo Soup
Callaloo is a dark green leafy vegetable, a bit like spinach. This green, smoky flavoured soup is often served with seafood; crab and callaloo soup for example.

Street Food

With stalls and street vendors all over the island, there is plenty of choice for cheap, filling meals on the go. But St Lucia’s fast food has a lot more heart, and flavour, than your average local takeaway. Don’t miss 'Fish Friday’ for ready-to-eat local favourites served from stalls lining the streets of Anse La Raye. Or ‘Callaloo Friday’ at Bay Gardens Beach Resort for quick eats, beer, music, and dancing. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.

Shark and Bake
Shark and Bake is a sandwich of deep-fried bread filled with shark, or other fish, and stewed vegetables. This popular taste of the sea is best served on the beach with the sand between your toes.

Banana Ketchup
Any good street food stall will have a bottle of St Lucia’s favourite condiment. This sweet, spicy sauce is made with locally grown bananas and goes with everything. Just use it like you would the tomato version.

Average Prices

You could easily push the boat out on holiday in St Lucia, but it is possible to enjoy yourself on a budget too. A meal for two in a mid-range restaurant might cost you 90 East Caribbean Dollars, with a bottled beer about six East Caribbean Dollars. When you need a drink, a 1.5 litre bottle of water is around five East Caribbean Dollars.

National Dress

You may not see many people in St Lucia's national dress from day to day, but these traditional costumes are often worn at festivals. For women, the outfit starts with a white cotton blouse and slip, both trimmed with lace and red ribbon. Then there's a bright outer skirt and head piece, both made from Madras material (a plaid or patchwork design originally from Madras, India). Finally a bright satin shoulder scarf is pinned onto the left shoulder. The head piece, known as the Tête en l'air, is tied in one, two, three, or four peaks to represent the wearer's relationship status. Complementing the women's dress nicely, the men's traditional outfit consists of a white shirt and black trousers with a bow-tie and sash made in the Madras fabric.

Customs & Traditions

St Lucian culture is a blend of influences—French, English, African—and an irrepressible spirit all of its own. People drive on the left and live for cricket. They go to Roman Catholic church and speak a French-based patois. But what is distinctly St Lucian is the music—calypso, soca, reggae; the flavourful Creole cuisine; and the vibrant carnivals, towns and markets. The island also proudly boasts two Nobel Prize Winners; the late Sir W. Arthur Lewis won the prize for Economics in 1979, and poet Derek Walcott won for Literature in 1992.

When it comes to etiquette, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:

•    Greet people with a friendly hello. St Lucian’s usually shake hands or, more casually, ‘jam fists’.
•    People don’t tend to use sarcasm; so if you do, your meaning may be misunderstood.
•    Islanders may not use the same rules of political correctness we do. You may hear people addressing each other by the colour of their skin, but it’s not intended to be offensive.
•    Everything occurs on ‘island time’. Most people will arrive late and buses and other services may not run to an official schedule.
•    Waiting patiently in line probably won’t get you anywhere here; you may need to do as others do and push yourself to the front of the queue.
•    People tend to make a ‘pssst’ sound to get others’ attention or call them over.
•    It is an offence for anyone to dress in camouflage or military-style clothing.

 

Wildlife

St Lucia's thriving rainforests and balmy climate create the perfect setting for diverse wildlife, with several species found here and nowhere else. One of those species is the St Lucia amazon, known locally as the jacquot. This brightly coloured parrot is extremely rare and spotting one is considered good luck. Other native birds include the white breasted thrasher, the St Lucia peewee and the St Lucia oriole. Lizards also make their home here, including iguanas, which can grow up to six feet long, and the tiny St Lucia whiptail, with its blue and yellow tail. The most feared animal on the island is the venomous but rare lancehead snake, commonly referred to as the 'serpent'. Whales, dolphins and leatherback turtles inhabit the waters surrounding the island and can be seen all year round.

Whale Watching
Twenty species of whale can be spotted off St Lucia’s coast, including sperm whales, pilot whales and humpbacks. Make a day of it on a whale watching boat trip, and don’t forget your camera.

Nesting Turtles
From March to August, turtles come to Grand Anse Bay to lay their eggs. Join an evening trip to see endangered green, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles come ashore to lay 60 to 100 precious eggs in a hole in the sand.

Underwater Life
Go snorkelling and scuba-diving in St Lucia’s clear waters to see colourful tropical fishes, turtles, nurse sharks and seahorses. The best diving sites include Anse Chastanet, Anse Le Raye, and the Coral Gardens, at the base of the Gros Piton mountain.

The Maria Islands
The windswept Maria Islands are home to more than 120 species of plants, snakes, lizards and butterflies believed to be extinct in the rest of the world. Take a tour with an expert guide to learn about, and hopefully spot, all the islands’ wild inhabitants.